Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Wednesday adopted proposals put forward by a national forum to solve the Darfur crisis, announcing an immediate ceasefire in the war-ravaged western province and calling for a campaign to disarm militias there.
"I hereby announce our immediate unconditional ceasefire between the armed forces and warring factions provided that an effective monitoring mechanism be put into action and be observed by all involved parties," Bashir told participants of the closing session of the Sudan People's Forum - made up of ministers and opposition figures but boycotted by Darfur rebels.
The forum, backed by Bashir himself, has recommended that Sudan should call for a fresh ceasefire in Darfur and release political prisoners as part of a new peace push.
It also recommended Sudan's government should pay compensation to displaced Darfuris and appoint a national vice-president for the region.
Bashir also called for "an immediate campaign to disarm the militias and restrict the use of weapons amongst armed forces," in apparent reference to the feared Janjaweed militia that Khartoum is accused of backing.
"We confirm our commitment of negotiations to reach peaceful solutions which guarantee the eradication of disputes," Bashir said.
The forum's recommendations are expected to lay a foundation for a possible peace conference in Qatar by the end of 2008.
Sudan is pressing a diplomatic offensive to persuade the U.N. Security Council to delay possible proceedings against Bashir, who could face an international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes in Darfur.
Convincing the international community that Sudan is serious about promoting peace in Darfur, where the government has been accused of brutally repressing a nearly six-year insurgency, has been key to the people's initiative.
Bashir set up the forum weeks after the International Criminal Court prosecutor called for him to be tried for war crimes in Darfur. Many observers saw the new body as part of a diplomatic push to deflect the prosecutor's move and to show Sudan could find its own solution to the conflict.